THE numbing news emanating from New Zealand, where at least 49 worshippers attending Friday prayers have been murdered and many more injured, in terrorist attacks at two mosques, makes divisions here over Brexit appear trite by comparison on such a sombre day.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to the people of New Zealand on one of their darkest days – and, specifically, the people of Christchurch, a traumatised city still carrying the physical and mental scars of a devastating earthquake.
This massacre in a fellow Commonwealth country was made even more shocking by the level of sophistication in its execution – advance planning which will also be deeply troubling for security services around the world as they, too, come to terms with this abhorrent tragedy.
But this wasn’t just an attack on New Zealand. It was an attack on the free world, and the freedoms that people of all faiths hold dear. As Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan and a cricketer who played with distinction in New Zealand, said so profoundly, terrorism does not have a religion.
He is right. All forms of violent extremism pose a threat – and the strength of the international condemnation will offer comfort to New Zealanders as they despair at the inhumanity of such loss of life on this scale.
And as the world reacts to the rising death toll, and offers support for Muslims as they attend acts of worships in mosques here, it can draw inspiration from the incredibly poised response of Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s premier.
“We, New Zealand, we are not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate, we were not chosen for this violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism, we were chosen for the fact we represent none of these things. Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it,” she said.
“Many of those who will have been directly affected by this shooting will be migrants, they will be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home and it is their home. They are us.”
And, in turn, New Zealand is us. It has always enjoyed historic and cultural bonds with the United Kingdom – bonds that will become stronger as the two countries demonstrate, by their collective response from different sides of the world to these acts of revulsion, that extremists, whoever and wherever they are, will never prevail.